Each year February seems to be a month of dry eyes and allergies. 2021 is no exception. It is no surprise that most of us are spending more time indoors this month as well as screen time increasing. In a recent poll from the Fight for Sight charity 49% of those questioned reported an increase in screen time during lockdown with 38% reporting deterioration in their eyesight including difficulty reading, poorer night vision and migraines. Certainly, in clinic I am seeing an increased number of patients attending daily mentioning eye strain, frontal headaches, tired eyes generally and dryness. Not to mention “mask eye”; but I will come to that later.

Most dry eye related issues related to increased screen work occur due to reduced blink rate. Essentially blinking spreads tears across the cornea, keeping the tissue hydrated, lubricated and nourished. Can you believe that blink rate can decrease by 66% when using a screen falling from 18 blinks a minute to just 6. There’s no wonder that dry eye associated with screen time is on the rise.

The simplest way to reduce some of these screen related eye issues is by essentially taking a break. The 20-20-20 rule is a good guide. Every 20 minutes take a 20 second break looking at something 20 feet away.

Dry eye can of course be caused by many other factors. This can be explored in practice at a routine eye examination.

February also sees the beginning of the tree pollen season. Tree pollen from Alder, Hazel, Yew and Elm are released now and this means those unlucky enough to be affected by seasonal allergic symptoms may suffer red, itchy eyes along with the other allergic symptoms. There are treatments for these symptoms depending on the presentation and severity. This link is an interesting graphic to show the different pollens and which months they occur: https://haymax.biz/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/HayMax-Graphic-Pollen-Calendar-2020-for-Website-003-1024×1024.jpg

Mask eye is a brand new consideration. Wearing a mask is essential for most at present but mask eye occurs when exhaled breath escapes from the top of the mask and dries out the cornea, the front surface of the eye. The exhaled breath exacerbates dry eye but as this is a new condition there is very little hard research on this but anecdotally I, and fellow colleagues, are seeing this in practice frequently. It seems the best way to combat mask eye is to ensure the mask fits snugly with air escaping to the side or through a vent rather than the air escaping at the top of the mask. This should also help with spectacle lenses fogging too.

One final thing to mention is a continuation of the anti-fog theme. Having researched the best remedy for fogging spectacle lenses the Clear-It Wipe from Hoya does a great job. It is a reusable wipe infused with the anti-fog treatment. Each wipe lasts about 60 treatments can be used as a microfibre lens cloth and are available in practice now for £10.

I hope this blog post has been of some help and I look forward to welcoming you in practice again soon.